Smokejumpers tackle fire near Gore Lake |

Smokejumpers tackle fire near Gore Lake

Cliff Thompson

Six smokejumpers from Grand Junction hit the ground late Wednesday, aided by a helicopter to ferry in water and supplies.

The half-acre fire is in an area designated for natural burning by the U.S. Forest Service, but officials decided to extinguish it.

“It’s a timing thing,” said Holy Cross District Ranger Cal Wettstein. “We could be looking at six or eight weeks before we get a fire-ending event. Every night that smoke would drain down to (Interstate 70) and Vail.”

The smoke could create hazardous driving conditions, he said.

The fire was reported by two hikers. It’s at about 11,900 feet above sea level in spruce and fir, smoldering on the ground, said Interagency Fire Officer Phil Bowden.

The fire is largely hemmed in by rocky, unburnable peaks. If the Forest Service had allowed the fire to burn, the location would have been ideal, Wettstein said.

“It’s a difficult spot to get into,” Bowden said.

Crews will be on the site tonight and tomorrow, Bowden said. They are being aided by cool, damp weather and an occasional rain shower.

Other fires that have been allowed to burn have depleted the ranks of specialized fire management crews.

“It’s a timing thing,” Wettstein said. “It did not seem prudent.”

Two large blazes, the 5,000-acre Lost Lakes and 13,500-acre Big Fish Fires 34 miles southwest of Steamboat Springs, are being managed by a specialized team and by firefighters who are extinguishing some hot spots.

Those fires are expected to burn a total of nearly 34,000 acres before they either run out of fuel or are extinguished by snow.

The Big Fish Fire destroyed the historic Trapper’s Lake Lodge two weeks ago when it roared into life and burned nearly 8,000 acres in a day. Firefighting crews protecting the building had to retire to a safe zone because of the fierce, wind-driven flames.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or

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